Tag: Inverness

Elsie Normington from the Haven Appeal Pictured with Highlands and Islands Tourism Awards Director Liz Mackintosh and Chair Laurence

Highlands and Islands Tourism Awards Board Creating Smiles with Haven Appeal

Creating a smile, lending a hand and helping people are an everyday part of the hospitality industry. It comes naturally. So it was natural for HITA to reflect this and support a local charity.Its chosen charity last year was the Haven Appeal which is aiming to ‘Create Smiles’ on the faces of children and young people with severe and complex needs.


A charity that has had a new lease of life since marking its 25th anniversary has received a cash award to help its further growth.

The Oxygen Works, created by the MS Therapy Centre, in Inverness, was the chosen charity at the Highlands and Islands Tourism Awards (HITA) and £2,995 raised on the night has been handed over to the centre to help its life-changing services.

The Oxygen Works provides a range of treatments – including oxygen therapy, physiotherapy and massage and reflexology – to help people with a number of medical conditions, including multiple sclerosis, cancer, Parkinson’s and diabetes, as well as sports injuries.

It is the only facility of its kind in the UK providing such a range of therapies and services to a diverse population of individuals and uses the only oxygen chamber in the central Highlands of Scotland.

More than 500 centre members travel from across the Highlands and from as far afield as Aberdeen and the Outer
Hebrides, to use the facilities. Over its 25 years, staff have helped all ages, from an eight-month-old baby to a 99-year-old grandmother.

As part of its 25th anniversary celebrations, the centre in the city’s Burnett Road was re-branded as it improved and expanded its services.

Craig Ewan, HITA’s chairman, said: “The Oxygen Works does fantastic work for so many people with different conditions and we are delighted to be able to help its ongoing work.”

Leigh-Ann Little, the centre manager, said: “We are extremely grateful to HITA for such a generous donation.
“The centre is going from strength to strength and this money will assist us in our ongoing efforts to help as many people as possible.”

HITA 2018 was launched in March and aims to build on the success of last year’s awards which attracted an unprecedented 232 entries and nominations – an increase of more than 14 per cent on the 2016 figure and up 70 per cent on 2014.

The competition, which is being held in association with SSE for a sixth successive year, will crown winners in 14 categories, with the best places to stay, eat and drink and enjoy the area’s outdoors and musical culture among those to be honoured.



Andy Maxtone, Programme Manager at Developing the Young Workforce (Inverness & central highlands)

In the Year of Young People 2018 we are proud to be a new sponsor of HITA and help recognise all the opportunities, experience and skills the dynamic tourism industry presents to the region’s young people.

Tourism in the Highlands is experiencing impressive growth, buoyed by favourable rate exchange and the impressive scenery and attractions the region has to offer. In turn, this is opening up boundless opportunities for young people to embrace – right on their doorstep.

From weekend jobs and apprenticeships to graduate schemes and managerial experience, a career in hospitality continues to provide countless young people with the chance to become work-ready, increase their employability skills and benefit from a career with real prospects.

Since the DYW Inverness & Central Highland programme began in 2016, we’ve enjoyed tremendous support from local hotels and tourism businesses who recognise the valuable contribution young people make to their business. This support has in turn helped us engage with thousands of young Highlanders, education providers and parents.

School partnerships, work experience and hospitality careers days help highlight prospective career paths, and we’ve been consistently impressed by the variety of traineeships and apprenticeships on offer in areas including management, chef training and operations.

DYW Inverness and Central Highland, which forms part of the Scottish Government’s Youth Employment strategy, ensures our young people have the skills and confidence they need to make the seamless transition between school and the workplace.

One area in which we are supporting and encouraging students is in learning a second language. With much of the growth in tourism in the Highlands and Islands fuelled by overseas visits, it is vital the industry adapts to meet expectations. Having a second language can open up new opportunities for individuals and also give them and their businesses a competitive advantage.

Our partnership this year with HITA extends our involvement in tourism and hospitality to help young people pursue a career in such an important sector.

We look forward to seeing our young workforce thrive this year and perhaps see some feature in the HITA honours list.

Good luck to everyone who enters or is nominated





HITA Chairman Craig Ewan has been named Regional Director of the Year by the Institute of Directors for his “exemplary” service. 

Craig, Operations Director at the Kingsmills Hotel, won the Inverness regional category at the prestigious Scotland Director of the Year Awards.

The awards honour those individuals whose creativity, leadership or innovative business practices have led to success for their organisation and the communities they serve.

On presenting the award, sponsored by Highlands and Islands Enterprise, judges said: “Craig Ewan has consistently improved the performance of the hotel. His track record is exemplary.”

Craig, who has been general manager of different properties over the last 16 years, and became a director with Kingsmills Hotel in September 2017, said he was thrilled and delighted to be awarded the title.

He added: “I have worked for Tony Story, my chairman, owner, mentor and friend for the last ten years.  He has been inspirational and really helped me develop as a business leader.  If I did not have Tony’s support and backing I would not be the leader and manager that I am today.

“Working in the corporate world was great but working for an independent hotelier really teaches you all the business skills that you need to be successful.

“Tony and I have a great working relationship and I look forward to working for him on our future and very exciting expansion plans in Inverness over the next decade.”







The Scottish Government has praised the work of the Highlands and Islands Tourism Awards for helping to raise standards of excellence in the industry as this year’s search begins to find the industry’s leading stars.

The 2017 HITA scheme was launched at the Great Loch Ness Tea Party, an event to celebrate the future of the local tourism industry in collaboration with students of the Inverness College UHI hospitality department.

Pic caption: HITA chair Craig Ewan (seated centre) with HITA board members Marina Huggett (left) and Lorna Maclennan and Inverness College UHI students (left to right) Edward Holmes, Adam Nicolson and Lewis Mapplebeck

Tourism Secretary Fiona Hyslop declared her support for HITA in a message to the awards organisers.

She said: “Tourism is a vital and growing economic mainstay of the Highlands and Islands, supporting some 30,000 jobs and generating vital substantial revenue, and the industry’s reach into every corner of the area means that tourism is everybody’s business.

“The Highlands and Islands Tourism Awards highlight the very best businesses and individuals who go beyond normal standards to ensure superb visitor experiences, whether through hospitality, catering, events, activities or other pioneering industry work.”

Now in their 13th year, the awards celebrate excellence across all sectors of the industry in the Highlands and Islands. Last year, 203 businesses or individuals entered or were nominated for awards, the biggest ever response in the event’s history.

HITA chair Craig Ewan said: “Tourism operators have to constantly improve, develop and innovate to stay ahead in a highly-competitive industry. HITA does the same to ensure we reward the very best and promote the fantastic work being done by people across our region to provide excellent service for our guests.

“Last year was our most successful in terms of entries and nominations and we aim to build on that success to involve even more businesses and individuals who deserve to be recognised.”

HITA, which is run in association with SSE, is recognised as one of the premier industry hospitality awards programmes in Scotland, where the tourism sector is worth more than £4.5 billion to the economy.

The famous piper trophies will be awarded in 16 categories, with winners going on to compete at the glittering Scottish Thistle Awards next year.

This year, in line with Scotland’s themed Year of History, Heritage and Archaeology, there is a new category, Best Heritage Tourism Experience.

Nominations and entries can be made from today via the HITA website www.highland-tourism-awards.co.uk

Nominations close on 23 June and the entries deadline is 30 June. The event will culminate in a grand ceremony for finalists at the Drumossie Hotel, Inverness, on 3 November.




Five businesses from across the Highlands and Islands have picked up national honours at the Scottish tourism ’Oscars’.

The five category winners in the Highlands and Islands Tourism Awards in November went on to win at the national finals of the Scottish Thistle Awards, held at the Edinburgh International Conference Centre on Friday.

The Ninth Wave Restaurant in Mull was voted Best Restaurant Experience; The five-star Ardtorna bed and breakfast in Oban was named Most Hospitable B&B /Guest House and the family-run Kylesku Hotel in Sutherland was chosen as Most Hospitable Hotel.

The award for Friendliest Pub/Bar went to the Applecross Inn in Wester Ross, while Tiree Music Festival received a special commendation in the Best Cultural Event or Festival category.

Craig Ewan, Chair of the Highlands and Islands Tourism Awards, said: “Having five of our category winners recognised at the national finals is a great achievement for the individual businesses and also for the industry in the north of Scotland.

“Congratulations to all those who won and were shortlisted for awards.”

This year’s Highlands and Islands Tourism Awards, now in their 12th year, were launched last week by tourism minister Fergus Ewing.

He said he expected HITA to build on a record-breaking 2015 which saw the highest number of entries and nominations in 15 categories.

The awards, which are held in association with SSE, are free to enter and businesses or individuals can put themselves forward for recognition or be nominated by customers or other individuals in 15 categories via the HITA website at www.highland-tourism-awards.co.uk

The event will culminate in a grand ceremony for finalists at the Kingsmills Hotel on 4 November.

Last year 190 entries and nominations were received for the Highlands and Islands Tourism Awards. The total was boosted by the inclusion of part of Argyll for the first time, but even without the boundary change the figure was nearly 40 per cent up on 2014.

HITA winners will go on to represent the region at the glittering national final of the Scottish Thistle Awards next year


In pictures – HITA 2015

It was a night to remember, not least for our award winners. So here a selection of photographs courtesy of sponsors SPP, some of the main moments to treasure again. Thank you everyone who helped make this record breaking year so special.




A small island music festival almost wrecked by storms this summer has blown away the opposition to win a major tourism award.

During this year’s Tiree Music Festival more than 1,000 people had to be evacuated from the site because of strong winds. A huge response from the community and local businesses helped find shelter for festival-goers in schools, the island airport and people’s homes so the event was able to continue.
The festival, which attracted a sell-out 1,700 audience – more than three times the island population – has been voted Best Cultural Event or Festival at the prestigious annual Highlands and Islands Tourism Awards.

And in a double success for the island, the Tiree Wave Classic windsurfing event also won HITA’s new Best Sporting Event category,

The awards were presented last night (13 November) by Fergus Ewing, Minister for Business, Energy and Tourism, at a glittering ceremony in the Drumossie Hotel in Inverness.

In all,15 tourism businesses and individuals were crowned winners at the event which was hosted by celebrity chef Tony Singh.

Mr Ewing said:
The Highlands and Islands boast some of Scotland’s most beautiful scenery and exciting events and these awards recognise the wealth of experience, the commitment and excellence of tourism operators in the region.

I commend the hard work and commitment of everyone who extends a warm welcome and high standard of service to Scotland’s visitors. While Tiree in particular can celebrate a deserved double win, I congratulate all of this year’s winners and send best wishes for a long, enjoyable and worthwhile career in tourism and hospitality.
Tiree is just 12 miles long and three miles wide with a population of about 650. Its two major events have become significant economic drivers and attract thousands of visitors to the island.

The Tiree Music Festival, which started in 2010, has grown steadily over the years and is known as one of the most family-friendly in the UK. This year tickets sold out within five hours of going on sale with a line-up that included The Fratellis, We Banjo 3, Skerryvore and Manran.

The event was put in doubt when strong winds meant the entire festival campsite had to be evacuated after revellers’ tents were blown away. But organisers ensured the show went on after campers were given alternative accommodation and conditions improved the following day.

The HITA judges said of the festival:
The tiny, seemingly inaccessible Isle of Tiree has overcome local constraints to build its annual music festival into an incredible, cultural event which brings economic benefits to the community, highlights traditional and contemporary music and makes imaginative use of sponsorship. It is a worthy winner that has enhanced the overall visitor experience.

This year the festival faced unprecedented weather conditions which could have forced it to be abandoned. However, a truly remarkable effort by the organisers and the island community ensured it not just recovered but flourished in the following days.
Tiree Wave Classic is the longest running professional windsurfing event in the world. Founded in 1986, it showcases the best of the UK’s windsurfing talent, ranging from juniors to World Cup professional windsurfers.

Calum Ross, proprietor of the Loch Melfort Hotel, Oban, and Chairman of the British Hospitality Association Scotland, was chosen as HITA’s 2015 Ambassador of the Year.

Calum was described by the HITA board as someone with a quiet and unassuming manner but with a strong sense of leadership and great integrity.

Young Ambassador of the Year is Kyle Beattie, a trainee instructor with outdoor activity business Boots N Paddles, based in Kirkhill, near Inverness.

HITA judges voted Torrisdale Castle Estate in Kintyre as Best Holiday Accommodation. The self-catering properties on Kintyre’s east coast provide accommodation for groups of between two and 10 people. The estate is also used as a spectacular wedding venue.

The award for Best Informal Eating Experience went to the popular Mountain Café in Aviemore, and the Best Outdoor/Adventure Experience title was taken by Portree-based Skye Adventure which offers guided walking and climbing trips.

The Ninth Wave Restaurant in Mull was voted Best Restaurant Experience. Opened in 2009, the restaurant lies on a traditional croft and uses local produce including seafood, meat, cheese and herbs.

The Best Visitor Attraction title was won by the Aberlour Distillery, in Speyside, which offers a choice of three bespoke tours and tastings, and Friendliest Pub/Bar went to the Applecross Inn, in Wester Ross.

The five-star Ardtorna bed and breakfast in Oban was named Most Hospitable B&B /Guest House and the family-run Kylesku Hotel in Sutherland was chosen as Most Hospitable Hotel.

A new Innovation Award went to the North Highland Initiative. The initiative was established in 2005 as a result of Prince Charles’ involvement in bringing together the farming community, local businesses and the tourism industry in a management and marketing partnership to address challenges facing rural communities in the far north of Scotland.

The key tourism project which NHI is currently working on is The North Coast 500, a northern coastal road route, designed to attract visitors to the Northern Highlands.

This year’s HITA Hospitality Hero is Emma Clark from Glenegedale House in Islay. Emma and her husband Graeme took over the hotel from her parents in 2013 and have since won a number of awards.

The Tourism Everyone’s Business category has been won by Inverness-based WOW Scotland Tours which specialises in providing fully customised private tours from Inverness and Invergordon.

The HITA winners will now go on to represent the region at the national final of the Scottish Thistle Awards next year.

Some 190 businesses and individuals entered or were nominated for this year’s HITA awards and 44 were named on the shortlist last month.

Marina Huggett, Chair of HITA, said:

Well done to all this year’s winners who are all outstanding in their categories. The record number of entries and nominations we received this year and the exceptionally high standards throughout the contest made it extremely difficult for the judges to pick winners.

Those who came out on top are deserving champions, but all those who entered or were nominated are worthy ambassadors of the Highlands and Islands and this key industry.

We know from speaking to individuals that the HITA awards help raise standards and encourage businesses to push the boundaries of quality, which can only be good for our visitors and the area.
Scott Armstrong, VisitScotland Regional Partnerships Manager, said:
I would like to congratulate this year’s winners on their respective awards. Tourism businesses in the Highlands and Islands have once again made their mark, with a number of outstanding finalists spread right across these regions. The awards send a strong message that the tourism industry in the Highlands and Islands is diverse, high-quality and in good health.

I’m thrilled at the successes of so many excellent businesses and individuals, and I’m already crossing my fingers they’ll deliver more Highlands and Islands glory at the Scottish Thistle Awards finals in March next year.
Useful Links

Facebook – www.facebook.com/Highlands.and.Islands.Tourism.Awards
Twitter – @HiTourismAwards



The iconic Scottish Open golf trophy will go on show at the Highlands and Islands Tourism Awards next week ahead of the European Tour event’s return to the region in 2016, organisers have revealed.
Both HITA and Scottish Open organisers declared it a fitting centrepiece for this year’s awards as the silver trophy takes the form of a Scottish quaich – a historic symbol of welcome and hospitality.

It will be on display at the HITA ceremony on Friday, 13 November at the Drumossie Hotel in Inverness as part of the build up to the 2016 Scottish Open from 7-10 July at Castle Stuart Golf Links, one of the biggest visitor events for the region next year.

This year’s awards, which attracted a record number of entries and nominations, will be presented by Tourism Minister Fergus Ewing.

Mr Ewing said:
The Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open is a major event which brings huge rewards for tourism and the economy. I am delighted this prestigious event is returning to Castle Stuart, where it has been an enormous success previously, as the benefits will be felt across the north of the country.

2015 has been an exciting and successful year for tourism in the Highlands and Islands, as the unprecedented entry demonstrates, and the Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open is just one reason to look forward to a great 2016.
Marina Huggett, Chair of HITA, said:
Our awards ceremony allows us to celebrate and reward the best in the industry over the last year. But we will also be looking forward to next year and the opportunities to improve further.

The Scottish Open will bring thousands of people to the area and the exposure we get from media coverage will promote the area across the world and benefit us for many years to come.

Having the Scottish Open trophy at the awards ceremony gives us an added attraction on the night, but also reminds us of the importance of this event for tourism operators and other businesses in the north of Scotland.
Robert Gordon, Head of European Tour Tickets and Commercial Director, Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open, added:
We are delighted to bring the Scottish Open trophy to such a prestigious event and we look forward to working with the tourism industry to maximise benefits from the Scottish Open next year.
Friday’s ceremony is the culmination of HITA’s 2015 awards campaign, which was launched in April by Cabinet Secretary for Culture, Europe and External Affairs Fiona Hyslop, and is run in association with SSE.

The event, to be hosted by celebrity chef Tony Singh, will see winners announced in 15 categories.

The contest’s area was extended to include part of Argyll this year, but even without the boundary change the number of entries and nominations was nearly 40 per cent up on 2014.

The Scottish Open, sponsored by Aberdeen Asset Management and the Scottish Government, will be held at Castle Stuart in 2016 for the fourth time in six years.

More than 65,000 people attended the event in 2013 when it was last held at the course near Inverness and it is hoped attendances will top 70,000 next year.

In 2011 a Highlands and Islands Enterprise economic impact study showed the event and pre-tournament Pro-Am helped contribute more than £5 million to the Scottish economy, including £4 million to the Highlands and Islands.

Golf tourism is a major contributor to Scotland’s economy and is estimated to be worth close to £220 million annually, with forecasts of reaching £300 million by the end of the decade.

The current Scottish Open trophy was first played for in 2011 when Luke Donald won the event at Castle Stuart. Since then Jeev Milkha Singh, Phil Mickelson, Justin Rose and Rickie Fowler have all collected the much sought-after cup.







Award-winning celebrity chef Tony Singh will add a touch of spice to proceedings when he hosts this year’s record-breaking Highlands and Islands Tourism Awards (HITA) next month.
The Leith-born, fourth generation Scottish Sikh is a familiar face on television, having appeared on shows including Ready Steady Cook and The Great British Menu. He also recently appeared on the BBC programme A Cook Abroad when he visited India and explored and cooked the traditional food of the Punjab.

Tony has been in the restaurant industry for more than 20 years and is renowned for his contemporary Scottish cooking, which incorporates influences from around the world, and dishes such as his signature haggis pakora.

He has run a number of businesses, including Oloroso, Tony’s Table and the Ugly Brad Bakery and has worked in some of Scotland’s most prestigious restaurants including The Royal Yacht Britannia, The Balmoral Hotel, The Royal Scotsman train and Skibo Castle.

He has also cooked for some of the most famous people in the world, including the Sultan of Brunei, former President Bill Clinton, the Prince of Wales and Prince Albert of Monaco and was also the Scottish Government chef for Tartan Week in New York, for the Commonwealth Games in New Delhi and at the opening of the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow.

As Master of Ceremonies at this year’s HITA gala final in the Drumossie Hotel in Inverness on 13 November, he will oversee the presentation of awards in 15 categories. Each winner will go on to represent the region at the national final of the Scottish Thistle Awards next year.

Tony Singh said
I am delighted to be hosting this year’s HITA awards which is such an important occasion for people involved in the industry. To be recognised by your peers and the people who visit this area is fantastic.

Winning an award gives everyone in a business, the owner and the whole background team involved in making it work, a real boost and shows them they are doing it right.

I’m looking forward to a great night and a real celebration of what the Highlands and Islands has to offer.
Marina Huggett, Chair of HITA, added
Tony Singh’s great humour and extensive knowledge of the hospitality industry makes him an ideal choice to host this year’s awards.

It’s been a great year with record-breaking numbers of entries and nominations for the awards, so each category has been fiercely fought. It has made for an exciting competition and also helps with our continuous quest to raise standards even further across the industry.
Some 190 businesses and individuals entered or were nominated for this year’s HITA awards and 44 were named on the shortlist earlier this month.

Categories recognise quality and service in accommodation types from hotels to B&Bs, as well as experiences such as formal and informal dining and outdoor adventures. They also cover attractions and events, and identify individuals who champion hospitality or are young ambassadors for the industry.

This year four new sections were created to recognise tourism innovation, friendly pubs, outstanding sporting events, and individuals dedicated to hospitality.

The 2015 HITA awards, run in association with SSE, were launched in April by Cabinet Secretary for Culture, Europe and External Affairs Fiona Hyslop. The contest’s area was extended to include part of Argyll this year, but even without the boundary change the number of entries and nominations was nearly 40 per cent up on 2014.

This year’s categories are

Best Cultural Event or Festival
Best Holiday Accommodation
Best Informal Eating Experience
Best Outdoor / Adventure Experience
Best Restaurant Experience
Best Sporting Event
Best Visitor Attraction
Friendliest Pub / Bar
Hospitality Hero
Innovation Award
Most Hospitable B&B / Guest House
Most Hospitable Hotel
Tourism Everyone’s Business
Ambassador Award
Young Ambassador Award


Facebook – www.facebook.com/Highlands.and.Islands.Tourism.Awards

Twitter – @HiTourismAwards

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